Saturday, December 21, 2013


Cary Grant, still my favorite name to drop, said "Hate will keep you alive longer than Love will."    I could not imagine anyone's not loving Cary Grant, but he told me his own mother wanted him to dye his hair because the grey made her seem older.
My stepmother, Selma, has died at ninety-six.  My son, Robert, who called me to tell me, was surprised I was not more excited, since my father, Lew W. Davis, after a young lifetime of failure as a pharmacist in Pittsburgh, ordinariness in the army and UNRRA, shipwrecking and shipbuilding,  became the Republican Mayor of Tucson, subdividing its real estate, making a small fortune,  ("If he'd been married to your mother, Puggy, my stepfather said, "he would have been Governnor.")  Daddy, whom I have trouble of thinking by that handle, it sounds so inappropriate, left it all in Selma's keeping and benefit, which would, at her death, go to her daughter, me and then the children.  I don't know why Robert was surprised at my not being excited: I thought Selma would live forever. Her cruelty in my mind seemed unmatchable.  
       My mother, Helen, was social director at a resort in New England where Selma came with her then husband, and proceeded to cut his shirts into a hundred and twenty pieces each,  So Helen introduced her to my father, assuming she would do the same with him.  When my father didn't want to marry a woman with two children, Selma gave her son, an adolescent boy, to his father, a ne'er do well, and, I believe, an alcoholic. Her daughter, he let her keep, beating her from time to time as he'd done with my mother, though, I would venture, with less provocation, Andrea being a very nice little girl, and becoming, I think, a very nice woman.  Towards the end of his life when he had Parkinson's, and became rather frail. Selma beat my father, a truth which, when repeated the next day to me by the caregiver, got the caregiver fired.  For the rest of his life he became increasingly fragile, and when I went to see him last in the home, looked around frantically and said "Gwennie-- where's Gwennie?'  And I said "Here, Daddy."  And he said "Oh you looked so good I didn't recognize you."
     Selma and I had not spoken for the last several years-- when I called to say hello, she said she did not want to speak to me.  My friend Peggy Hitchcock, an heiress from Bryn Mawr, said "She'll fall down."  She did, but she got up again.  Somehow in these years… I don;t know… maybe because I have never thought of other than earning my own living, or maybe because of Jack, my Jewru, the remarkable man with whom I study things spiritual and struggle to evolve, I have never really hoped for or looked to an inheritance, other than the big one in the sky.
      So I, too, am gently surprised at my own lack of reaction to this news.  It really means nothing to me, other than that my children might have it easier, and Robert's children, whom I love.  But it still isn't getting my musical on, and that is the true breath of relief and joy I am waiting to let go of, exhale, inhale. It was only my own potential I hoped to fill in this life, my own gifts I yearned to realize.  I never really wished any ill to anyone, except the cruel fools who opt for war.  I am sorry that they are so well-connected they seem to have infinite sources.
   I write all this because I am used to reading obituaries of people who have accomplished something in life.  So the obit writes of their likes, their skills, their adventures, their circles of friends. Never before have I heard or focussed on an obituary of someone who has done so little to make the world a better or more interesting place. I kept waiting for Robert to read me the rest of it: what she'd done with her life.  But there wasn't anything.  And that itself, I would guess, is interesting. 

Monday, December 16, 2013


You realize what trouble we are in as a country when you see that John Boehner seems a rational Republican.  You see what trouble we are in as a world, when 60 minutes seems like a promotional lead-in for the finale of Homeland, on last night.  For all its twists and screws and dark surprises and dashed hopes and sort-of resolutions, it doesn't hold a candle or even a very small match to what is actually going on out there.
    What is strangest, or maybe not since none of us seems to know the half or smallest fraction of it, is the fact that the NSA has been forced to reveal-- the extent of the revelations also not and maybe never known-- so many of its nooked and crannied secrets, because of the revelations of our not-even-graduated from-high-schooler/cum spy, who after exposing the secrets, has taken sanctuary in the Soviet Union.  It is all on a level of invention I would defy Stephen King reborn into the skill and skull of Aldous Huxley before his spiritual awakening to invent.  I would be frightened of the future, and even the present, had I not come to my own realization that nothing we feel changes the outcome of anything, unless of course what we feel is Love.  That also probably changes nothing but our ability to deal with the fact that we have no real control over anything.
    That I have learned, better Late than Never, (a title given to one of the disastrous albeit originally clever works of my youth,) is the great lesson of Nelson Mandela, whose endless end was endlessly paraded over the past week plus.  There was no way even the thickest among us could not become aware of the man's impact on the planet, and the fact that he was given ninety-five years, including the ones that were doubtless partially wasted by his imprisonment, to make his unmistakeable point, is proof to me of the Unprovable: there has to be an Intelligence behind the Universe.  It cannot all be random, an accident, or whatever else the non-and-dis-and-unBelievers contend.
    Imagine.  Ninety-five years.  You come in, suffer, fight for what you believe, then learn to make your point peacefully, get to stay till the whole world knows what your job was, and how well you did it, and then get to leave, while still looking wonderful.  The only loss was perhaps not getting to meet Obama, but then you did have all those times with Oprah.  I don't mean to be glib, although that is what I cannot help being from time to time, and it may turn out to be one of my gifts of which I hope I will live to express all.
   But even I, the (I can't help it) wise guy was inordinately moved by the wonder of the man. And most of all, I think I have learned how he did it, and that was, on a lower level, by understanding that he was smarter than his jailers, and on a higher level, by learning to love his captors.  I am very far from the second, and really despise being held prisoner by morons, which it seems to me so many who are in charge of this once great country seem to be.  I have to remind myself that at one time when I was deeply absorbed in a study of and connection to the inner workings of our government-- Watergate, when I was doing research for a novel that turned out to be minor but seemed major at the time, a delusion I would hazard most serious writers, which I imagined myself to be, have to have to continue-- I was deeply into the idea of Reincarnation.  Don't laugh, so was the best of our Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, whose epitaph I unexpectedly came across in an airport in Covington, Kentucky, on my way to Cincinnati to do the Phil Donahue show.  Writ by Himself, it read, to the best of my recollection:"Here lies B.Franklin, Printer, food for worms.  But he will return, in a new and better edition, corrected and edited by The Author," that last in the unmistakable flourish of the Franklin hand.
    I couldn't imagine what that was doing on the wall in Covington, but then as imagination is Mother's Milk to me, I came to the egotistical conclusion that it was there because I was supposed to see it, since I, along with Ben, had probably been one of the Founders. That (maybe not entirely mad) concept was rife in me at the time, since I saw what trouble the country was in with Nixon, and thought maybe we were all back to get it in shape for the Bicentennial.  We may have done that, whether or not it really was US.  But what, God help us, has happened since, and what the Hell are we going to do?
   So: SUMMON, I say, YOUR INNER MANDELA.   If you are not yet highly enough evolved to love these idiots who appear to be in charge of what may remain of our future, then understand that you are probably smarter than they are, and have compassion for them.  Compassion seems to be one of the shortest suits in America, and obviously the world.  But Judgement, which we should also all be working to remove from our brainpan, most of us, me included, unsuccessfully, clearly allows us to see we are probably smarter than they are.  So if you can't make it to compassion, go ahead with Pity.  It's not as evolved as compassion, but then, it's better than guns, which those morons(forgive me, Nelson) have too much money and influence to get legislation against.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Had a tumultuous thirty-six hours, in which there was the possibility that I owned a masterpiece, had lost a piece of myself, had outlived my own productivity, and was going to give up my quixotic determination to demonstrate that Life was not over just because you were past the Magic Marker of Youth, and a woman in the bargain.
     First, the Picasso print, Mother and Child, left to me by my mother, hanging on my studio wall was opined by an insurance inspector to be NOT a print, but, quite possibly the original.  True, there was damage, a repaired rent beneath the white wash-- something the inspector said was clearly Picasso, --from the time my mother broke the painting over my stepfather's head--(Do read THE MOTHERLAND.)  But the value would still be enormous.
    Since I had an appointment with the paper conservator for the next morning, I did not want to even try to go early to bed, as I would obviously be unable to sleep, knowing that I might have the means to produce my own musical, after saving an African nation.  So I stopped by Carnegie Hall for that evening's presentation, Lena Dunham, the young woman with a hit series, GIRLS, on HBO, and David Sedaris, who gets his writings so effortlessly into The New Yorker, the dream of every young writer, which I was once.  The crowd, and it WAS. jammed to the many tiered gills, was clearly elated to be there.  The person next to me, a softly strong fortyish woman from Capetown was in New York for a conference at the UN of cyber-bio-scientists, all those half-word things that mean, I think, they are still imagining they can save the planet.  So if she wasn't giving up, I thought, re-fortified, neither should I.
    Then the reading began.  To be fair, I hope, and objective, Lena Dunham is kind of sweet and appealing in a self-deprcating young way, welcoming her parents before she began her launch, which featured butt-cracks, hair growing out of her nipple, and several vaginas.   The hall was awash in laughter, none of which was mine. I thought it was clearly me, that I was probably jealous, and, at that moment, let go of SYLVIA WHO?, retitled that day for my lunch with the Shuberts, THE WOMAN WHO CAME TO DINNER(Which title do you like better?) opening on Broadway. Then I went home, sad, because I thought maybe I should be realistic, and understand that I was over.
     Still, as I lay down, I finished a new song for the show.  Came the dawn, I had a call from my beloved Jamie, one of the smartest women on the planet, and I told what had transpired, and my puzzlement at all the laughter.  She explained to me, in just these words, that Lena "had her finger on the clitoris of every young woman in America." That brilliant observation quoted several times during the day, tickled the fancy(if that's not too clean) of those I told it to, who said it was "a generational thing."  So hope began a new little re-dance in my heart.
    Then I took the Picasso in a cab, down to Alvarez, the paper conservator.  Taking it out of its frame, after careful examination, he told me it was NOT an original.  My heart did not sink, because the truth was, I have never wished for any rewards that were not through my own efforts.  I told that gentleman, too, about Carnegie Hall.  And he, too, said "It's a generational thing." Then I went home, hung my not-really-an-original back on the wall, and thought to continue my day.
    At that hour, Cerene, the dark angel who cleans, came to change my sheets and Jeannie, the housekeeper for the Hampshire House helped her by vacuuming.  SIDEBAR: last week I met a delightful duo of young Southerners recently come to the William Morris agency to handle events, loved them and after they were gone, had a feverish search for my book, the TRAVELS OF MIMI, my beloved Bichon, no longer here except in photographs and this collection of poems, writ during our adventures together, while I was writing travel for The Wall Street Journal Europe, and she was in my pocket.  Barry, the young man of the Southern duo, had two bichons, so I had gone to Fedex and had a copy made for an exorbitant sum, so the book and Mimi would not perish from this earth.  That is, of course, the end of the Gettysburg Address which I had recited at two years old and three months, which made me a celebrity in Pittsburgh, but I was still not as lovable as Mimi.  The original book and the copy I'd made for security were both in a plastic bag on the chair. When I went to get them, after the apartment was cleaned, they were gone.
      Now THERE was a loss.  There was the heart-sink I hadn't felt when Pablo turned out to be less than real.  Along with Teddy, who works in the basement, with rubber gloves on, I went through the huge containers of tossed-down-the-chute garbage, but the plastic bag was not there.  Desolate, I went back to my apartment.  Sure, I had the poems, but they were only an expression of myself. The doggie, and the settings where we had journeyed, were an expression of much that was glorious in my history. And Mimi herself, unique, the expression of all that is loving and giving in humanity, which is oft better expressed in dogs.  "I'll go through the laundry," Jeannie said, because she had loved Mimi, too, the only little dog who had ever totally captured her (she has Great Danes.)
     I prayed, feverishly.  Finally the phone rang.  "I have it," Jeannie said triumphantly.
     "Was it in the laundry?"
     "It's on my computer," she said.  As my friends know, I have had few occasions to love computers, and had absolutely no memory of even sending it to her.  Several years had passed since I apparently did.
     SO HERE IT IS, that all of you might know, and if you care to, remember her.  And even if you don't wish to tiptoe around in that kind of light-hearted sentimentality, you might stop to consider what is the true meaning of LOSS.  What is it, that if gone from your life, would leave a hole in your soul? Surely not that which you had given to Bernie Madoff.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


One of the best things about living in New York is, of course, The New York Times.  But having been so long a Californian, where most of the news is gossip, I find the paper overwhelming from the sheer bulk of it, all the while worrying about the trees.  I heard once how many trees have to fall in the forest for there to be a New York Times, and the part of my heart that is heavy with compassion has obliterated it, as for me compassion includes forgetfulness.
     But I do get it on weekends, so was up on the news about China, just in time to go to Petrossian on my way to the theater, where lunched at the corner table a beautiful young Chinese couple. clearly married, newly it looked like.  I greeted them on their way out, knowing how to say Thank You in Chinese, but looking to enlarge my vocabulary. I asked if they had children and they said 'Not yet,' but were going to.  "Now you can have two," I said, having absorbed the headline, relieved, as Obama must be, that it's not about him.
    "Oh you are up on the news," they said, somewhat amazed.  "That is only from yesterday."
    And then I could not help but alert them to the truth that the first child would be jealous of the second, having some experience in that area, and coming as I just had from my beloved Jack Kornfield's morning lecture on Mindfulness, which mercifully materialized in time to soothe my soul.  It was given at the Society of Ethical Culture, where, strangely, I had gone to a service last Sunday, where I was, I think, the only white person, moved to go there as much by curiosity as the need to connect.  Pretty Asian girls had stood in the balcony, swirling as much as waving giant metal fans, a kind of exotic dance it seemed like, the metal bronze or brass, threaded.  I looked for them today, but in the balcony instead was a pond-- not quite a sea-- of mostly white faces, almost all of them in the mental health field.
       Jack was teaching along with Dan Siegel, another Mental Health practitioner on a very high level, professorial but genial and at moments, actually adorable, leaping into Jack's lap as he spoke of attachment, that the experiences babies have shape development in the brain, a need to depend on caregivers, speaking of the 3 Esses, See, Safe, and Soothed.  I am probably getting much this inexcact and probably wrong, simplifying of course because that is all I can do.  But it was quite wonderful and coming as it did, not a moment too soon.
      Jack is known to my friends as my Jewru, having entered my life a long time ago, a crystal writer and diamond-like thinker, one of the brilliantly intellectual Jews who became Buddhists.  Sitting next to me in one of the pews-- the building serves also as a church, so pews is indeed what they are, was a  youngish woman, a Mormon, who had a dog-eared, underlined copy of his book The Wise Heart, and had flown in from Colorado for this event, and was clearly transfixed, asking me if he is accessible, which he is, one of the miracles of my life, although I am not sure Buddhists believe in miracles.  He has seen me through the death of my husband and the death and I hope transformation of many things in me, as well as many things that are not as much uplifting, as painful.  So it was a gift from the God that Buddhists don't believe in that he was here this weekend, and called to invite me to this seminar.  Besides the wisdom and playfulness of his words, his voice casts the very most calming of spells.
       It was at one of his retreats that songwriting, which I had left behind in college, came back to me, and although it was supposed  to be a silent retreat, I went for long walks and some of the songs in my musical started up there.  i have remained over the years, consistently an Upstart, and as my LA friends know, I was just thrown out of my Beverly Hills abode for singing, have the paper from my landlord to prove I am not making it up, the neighbor who wanted me out of there for singing, a woman named Song.  So as writ before, i never have to make anything up, my life is so improbable.
      But one of the best parts of it has been Jack.  During the break I told him I was conflicted, because not knowing he would be here and there would be an all-day workshop,  I had bought a ticket for a matinee at City Center this afternoon, with Wynton Marsalis and Bernadette Peters doing Sondheim.  And gracious as he is smart and kind, he said to go to that instead of coming back to the seminar, because my focus now should be my musical, and I had had my meditation. Sometimes, as Blanche DuBois said, there's God so quickly.  And in this case, so mindfully.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Am still anguishing slightly in Gore Vidal's behalf over the pitiless article in the Sunday NY TIMES.  Gore himself was not a pitying man, but he was proud and made some fine contributions to our culture, such as it is, so he did not deserve to be humiliated, even post-mortem.  And as I was shown an act of completely unexpected kindness-- a beautiful family of Danes I found a while ago on the streets of New York, when they were seeking direction-- have given me some.  I got an e-mail, your most uncaring mode of communication, loaded with caring.  They invited me to come and stay with them after my coming surgery.  If there were still Victor Herbert songs, my heart would swell.
   So I am remembering, as often comes to mind, Aldous Huxley saying, "In the end, what matters is to be kind."  I had a beautiful friend a long time ago, a harpist with glorious flaxen hair, as in the Fairy Tales,  Indus Arthur, named after that exotic river.  I found her on lonely Sundays when I would go to the Four Oaks, a restaurant in one of the canyons-- Beverly Glen I think it was, where she played her harp during brunch.  She was truly exquisite, delicate and soft in the very best sense of that word.  So when Marge Champion, a good friend, married Boris Sagal, a director I knew and liked, I gave them a wedding dinner-- just the two of them and us-- and had Indus come and play the harp.
    Sometime in the course of the evening I told Boris about a folk song I had written at Bryn Mawr, one that had subsequently been recorded by Theo Bikel and Miriam Makeba, and, No Kidding, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  When I'd lived in London after college, I'd stayed briefly with a folk singer named Isla Cameron, and she'd learned the song and sung it to Theo, who found me at the Purple Onion when I was doing my act there in Hollywood, told me he'd recorded it, and published it, and for a while, actually sent me royalties.  
     In the midst of my telling the story, Indus, flaxen hair flowing beside her harp, suddenly sat up straight and said "YOU wrote WHERE DOES IT LEAD?" and started to play it and sing it.  Boris, not surprisingly said: "You set this up."
    But I hadn't, and it was genuinely thrilling, in the best sense of that word.  Not long enough after that, Don's cancer was discovered.  And when he died, I asked Indus if she would play at his funeral.  She did so unhesitatingly and beautifully, lending her beauty and grace to that sad occasion.  It was only a few short weeks later that I found out she had cancer, too, and had gotten up from her bed to play the harp for Don.
    So I visited her as much as I could, for what time she had left, which was not very long.  And I remember best how beautiful she still was, her lover, a sweet young man who had been consulting fakirs and phony healers in his desperation-- "It's just that I love her so," he explained, "I don't want to let her go."
    But most of all I remember how beautiful she still was, her beauty incredibly intensified by how generous she was, radiant, holding my hand and telling me how beautiful I was-- something I have never really been, except maybe that moment, because of her presence.  And I think of Aldous Huxley, meaner, more acerbic in his early works than even Gore Vidal, saying "In the end, what matters is to be kind."
      That says it all.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I know that it isn't going to matter to me, what those who are left behind say about me after I am gone.  But I am sad for Gore Vidal, one of the more elegant and arguably the most eloquent of people I have been lucky enough to know in my lifetime, because of the article in the Sunday Arts section of the New York Times.  One of his disappointed familial survivors, to whom Gore apparently left nothing, spoke with gargantuan insensitivity of the writer's loss of control over bodily functions.  Dead though he might be, I can still feel him flinching.
    I met him when my husband Don and I, early in our marriage, were living in Europe, and our then close friend, Sue Mengers, my agent, gave us Gore's number when we were going to visit Rome.  He invited us for drinks atop his terraced rooftop apartment; having apparently passed the audition, we were asked on to dinner, with his companion, Howard Austen, and one of Andy Warhol's current flashes, Ultra Violet. At that meal Gore spoke openly of his sexual proclivities and preferences, and young and innocent though we might have been, as it was Gore, to me it seemed fascinating.
    At one point he fixed me with his amazing, dark gaze, and looking deeply, asked if I was wearing contact lenses. I answered No.
   "It's just that your eyes are so beautiful," he said, "I thought you must have something in them."
   Oddly, it was dazzling being hit on by one of the world's most notorious homosexuals.
   When we got back to our hotel, Don, one of the sweet, straight men in the world, said to me: "It just shows what a pervert you are, that you enjoy the company of Gore Vidal."
    Not too long after that, back in Los Angeles, Don died.  My good friend, the actress Betty Garrett, who had also lost a husband, Larry Parks, too young, said to me: "Now you must do what you wouldn't have done if Don were alive."  So the first thing I did was buy a hat-- Don didn't think I had "a hat face,"-- and then I went to Italy, to Ravello, to visit Gore Vidal.
    "Gore didn't tell me you were coming," Howard mewed.  I was, nonetheless, invited for dinner in their beautiful hillside home, looking down at sea.
    "This is ONE of our views," Gore said, opening his arms wide to embrace the horizon.
     At dinner, I brought him a copy of my latest, and, I hoped, best novel, MARRIAGE.   "I know this isn't your favorite subject," I said.  "But it's different than other books."
    "Different FROM," he baritoned.
    In the years after that I saw him from time to time in different places, at parties, at dinners, at book signings.  Always there were warm exchanges, all of them witty, many of them affectionate and/or piercing. I was of course sad to see him growing older and less forgiving, but forgiveness had never been one of his stronger suits.  Still, I was glad to know he was still alive.
     "The evil that men do live after them," Mark Antony said at Caesar's funeral, which eloquent durability Gore opined would not particularly please Shakespeare, since he was dead.  But to have his physical degeneration written of in the Sunday Styles section, I am sure would have mortified Gore, so I am hurt and angry for him.
    And though the Times said the crass-detail-giving relative spoke in "affectionate tones," I don't really believe that.  I think it was probably, a timbre far from aligned with Jay Gatsby's enamored description of Daisy's, voice as "full of money;" but one more aptly filled with bitterness at not having gotten any.   

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Autumn Leaves

I am sorry that song was already written, because there is truly nothing lovelier, more inspirational or soothing to the spirit than the colors of autumn.  I walked through parts of Central Park yesterday, just eating it with my eyes, wondering if there was any way to describe the tones, more glorious as they faded than at their most brilliant.
  A little girl in pink, not that wondrous a shade, even when worn in a hooded jacket by a three-year old, from Norway she was, where it is probably already well into winter weather, collected a pile of them and set them on a park bench.  I would have liked to congratulate her on her sense of organization
but of course do not know the tongue.  But she was dear, as most children are-- my friend the mystery writer Bill McGivern used to regret that he could not invent something called 'STAY BABY,' because it was never going to be that wonderful again.  How well he knew.
   But the same cannot be said about the leaves changing.  Green is only green, except in Ireland, where it comes in as many shades as the people.  But oh, the hues of Autumn. How sad it would be to be blind on a day like yesterday in Central Park, where even the ducks on the pond appeared to be taking notice. In-between bobbling and gliding across the mirrored surface, speckled slightly with the soggy leaves that hadn't landed on shore, they seemed curiously attentive to the quiet spectacle around them, respectful of the beauty.
    I am in a constant struggle to gentle my spirit, nowhere more than in New York, with its electric air of Expectations, from which almost inevitably come Disappointments. But if my soul could carry with it the colors of Central Park on the day that was yesterday, I think I would be serene.
   Ah, but there are stairs at the end of the walk that lead back up to the street, and the crosswalk where pedestrians supposedly have the right of way, but the cars might run you down just the same, because the drivers are not particularly paying attention.  Oh, if only we all could be living in the park, or at least be walking through it in our minds.  Or gliding across the pond with our sensibilities.
   But I do have a bowl now filled with the leaves I collected.  And maybe if I study it long enough and often enough I will understand.
   Everything fades.  And maybe that is a part of the Beauty.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

I Heart/Spade/Diamond/Club NY

So if you have to move back here after a long and spiritually disenfranchised time away, in some of the great cities of the world, (Paris, Rome, London, Venice, Seminyak(HUH?) and arguably one of the worst, at least in the opinion of those who are judgmental-- Beverly Hills--Autumn is the best time to return to New York.  Besides that it is one of our best standards, the composer notwithstanding-- Vernon Duke--it is a picturesque Fairy Tale of images: the leaves in Central Park changing with a quiet, palpable ferocity into what is, in my opinion, the best colors we have, the oppressive heat of summer left behind, people's natures softening with the season, there is the Marathon, something like a Flag of All Nations for the legs.  Friday night as I made my way to Whole Foods in the Time Warner building on Columbus Circle, there was a burst of such spectacular pageantry over Central Park as would outdo the fireworks at the Biennale in Venice, and the biggest show-off events(which is all there are) in Cannes.  I, having spent my whole life trying to learn not to take things personally, decided to take this personally indeed, an argument for my having returned to live in this city I have never really loved since I graduated from PS9 on West End Avenue, where I experienced the first of what it was to be under the wing of a great educator, now a school for "special children," not in the happiest sense.
    But there they were, high in the sky, fireworks to welcome me, to assure me I had made the right decision, moving back here.  So I sat down on a fire hydrant, not the most comfortable of perches for a woman, and enjoyed-- celebrated, really, with my eyes.  After all, if they were going to all this trouble...
    It lasted for a good and spectacular time.  People mused, passing by, at the possible reason for such a display-- "It's  November," one young man said.  Finally a youngish, pretty and sad woman of my acquaintance, who I would guess is having relationship problems judging from the sorrow around her eyes, told me it was for the Marathon, which I had all but forgotten was this weekend.  From Columbus Circle I went up Broadway, and in the next day and a half went to two movies, (one example of the unsung wonders of this city--there they are, everywhere and accessible) one film tedious and endless in spite of its eroticism(Blue is the Warmest Color, you have to wonder about A.O, Scott AND the Cannes Film Festival), one magnificent, but non-stop painful, so you have to admire Brad Pitt, a bit player, producer and one supposes, rightly, its main engine.  Still agonizing to consider this ever happened in this country, that we as humans could have treated other humans like that, although it helps you understand how there could be a Ted Cruz.
      Then Voila! It's Sunday.
     And here everybody is, and just try to get anywhere.  Everything blocked off and crazy, and just to make your way to the other side of town is an achievement.  But over Sheep's Meadow and into the woods, NOT to Grandmother's House we go.  This year some of the patrols wear jackets marked CounterTerrorism, and that's as disturbing as it seems to me unintelligent.  But oh, well.
     I finally arrive at Bar Bouloud on Broadway, a more than pleasant restaurant I have targeted as the rendezvous for the beautiful Danish family I connected with a year and a half ago when they were a little lost in the address sense, and I in the personal one, and we became friends.  I noted at the time You Can Always Make a Friend in New York, as long as they are from Someplace Else.  They had the most beautiful child I had ever seen, and have since augmented that by one.  Now the grandparents, both doctors in Denmark, are here for another visit.  Interesting to hear that things in Denmark, like everywhere else in the world, are not as good, but they still take care of their own.
    Then it's time to try and return to where I live.  Sidewalks jammed, streets roped off, another struggle. I have no choice but to stop into a shop and buy (on SALE, of course) an over-the-top top that I can wear if Rex Reed ever invites me anywhere.
    Finally there's an open street, and I can get home.
    But is it?  We shall see.

Friday, October 25, 2013


As those of you know who are generous enough to read this column, I have returned to New York to set in motion, at long, long last, my musical comedy, Sylvia WHO?  The only problem was, I had signed a lease last May for a year, for considerable rent.  I'd furnished the apartment sparely, from Ikea and, like the world's oldest college student, painted a few not-exactly landscapes-- you will remember I slept during my teen years under Jackson Pollock's Blue Unconscious, so you don't go unmarked, been gifted with a tote bag with my initials from my loved friend, Jamie, for my birthday, mounted that above the keyboard I'd gotten online, and so hung the rest of the walls with other purses as a motif, so became, thematically, a bag lady.
    When the good news began to come in about my musical, I gave no thought to trying to get out of the lease, because in the event my dream did not materialize, I intended to return to LA.  And I did not want to incur legal bills,  So I stiff-upper-lipped and just moved forward towards my departure date, which was yesterday.
    Some months ago, an upstairs neighbor complained that my TV was too loud, so I stopped watching TV, because the walls are paper-thin, and I am not looking for trouble or arguments.  I loved my new next-door neighbor, a bright, great innocent named Katie Freshwater, (I never have to make anything up,) and though she was sad that I would be leaving, she has a new, dear husband named Bobby, whom I left all the extra tables and chairs that had been sent me by mistake from Ikea, which had failed to send the hardware to put them together, and when I asked for it sent more tables instead, but oh, well.
     So I was all set to leave, almost, and made out a number of checks to leave with Katie to give the landlord over the months I would not be there.  I called the superintendent to ask the exact amount and he then-- understand this was Wednesday, and I was leaving Thursday-- told me he could accept no more checks that I had breached my rental agreement, that there was a complaint against me for making noise, and I had a 3 dayQuit notice.  I then opened the envelope I hadn't had time to look at, and in it, it said...(I NEVER HAVE TO MAKE ANYTHING UP...) that I had been SINGING.
    And here's the best part.  The complainant, was my upstairs neighbor-- not an old woman, but a 30 year old___ (I will not use a descriptive word-- you may put in your own) named SONG.
     Thrown out for singing, because of a woman named SONG, when I was writing a musical. I NEVER HAVE TO MAKE ANYTHING UP.
     My wonderful friend Pam Korman connected me with an antiques dealer who gave me the name of a trucker who was over and had me packed up in three hours and the stuff is now in A1 Storage for if/when I go back.  But "SONG"  Do you believe it?  For SINGING?
     When my daughter got into some trouble my attorney here got me a lawyer in Phoenix, who turned out to be less than Oliver Wendell Holmes' dream of the law, and his name was LAMM.  A lawyer named LAMM.  I NEVER HAVE TO MAKE ANYTHING UP.
      I am so glad, when at Bryn Mawr, I studied Restoration Comedy, where everyone was named what they really were.  None of them were vile enough in this case, although what she is is a well-honored word, from ancient Rome, a description of what separated  the water that ran down ancient hillsides.  But we will have to be satisfied with SONG.
      Jamie wanted me to put a bowl of flowers outside her door as a thank you, but I am not quite that high-minded, as I think this might have given pause even to Jesus.  But only, of course, if he was trying to get on a musical.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


So I am readying to leave L.A., comfortable as it is, nourishing as it has been to my creativity, off to seek my Fortune.  I suppose this is not only old-fashioned as in a Fairy Tale, but redundant, as I have only lately come to the realization that my fortune was something I already had: the ability to express myself.  That does not come easily to a lot of people.  I have had the good chance to manifest that in different ways in my life: through poetry when I was a very little girl, through comedy and song when I was a teenager and very young woman, and through novels for all the years between then and now, punctuated with my travel-writing, and ReportsfromtheFront, that more or less reflected where I was in time, and my head, and often in my body.
     But it is the song part of me that has always filled me with the greatest aches and joys, and I have been privileged in my life to know some of the Great songwriters, a few of them adorable, some of them cads, a  worn-out, Noel Cowardy word, but then, so were they.  Among the latter were Frank Loesser, who said, when I auditioned for him at MCA when I was twenty: "Kid, you're the biggest talent since me," and then proceeded to disappoint and use me in the many ways successful, brilliant and unscrupulous men can, which at the time seemed as thrilling as it was hurtful. Then there was Yip Harburg, the gentle genius who wrote the lyrics for The Wizard of Oz, which remains the most uplifting and diverting and Illuminated score ever, I think, filled with a love for the Invisible and Unknowable in which Yip thought he did not believe, being a committed atheist, but manifesting what was its most radiant demonstration--  this melodic side of Blake and Shelley.  His wife, Eddie, offered me fruit one Yom Kippur when I took sanctuary with them, fleeing the hurts of my mother, whose place Eddie had taken in my very young consciousness, since Yip had become my dad.  When I told her I was fasting, she said "Surely Gwen, someone as intelligent as you doesn't believe in God."  It had never occurred to me not to. So I ate five grapes and was sick for days.
    Yip and I walked through Central Park his final autumn, and I sang him some of what were the beginnings of my musical, and he said they were as good lyrics as he had heard, and with the final song,  paid me the greatest of compliments I have ever received, saying "I wish I had written that."  Though I was so elated I thought I could die that day, I am grateful that I didn't.
    My street here in Beverly Hills, Robbins Drive, is lined with sycamore trees, the leaves a glorious multicolored assertion of autumn, as it seems to be nowhere else in LA.  So I think of 'Autumn in New York," by Vernon Duke. He once chased me around the bed in my stepfather's room, and told me "Zat Richard Rodgers is a son of a bitch.. but he does write a good tune."  Then there was Julie Styne, diminutive and darling.  I would have lunch with him on Saturdays at the Carlyle towards the end of his life. We had tried writing the score of this together but to my surprise and disappointment his melodies, like Julie, were worn out.  So we opted for friendship and those Saturday lunches, after his many heart procedures.  He continued to try and hit on me, and aware that he was badly failing, I asked him what he would do if I said yes.  He said "Try."
    Then there was Cy Coleman, whom I approached when he came out of an elevator. I was leaving a humiliating audition where a potential collaborator, a soulless but gifted composer had had construction going on all during the time I sang him my songs.  "You might be allowed to write a quatrain" he said, condescendingly, as he said he would do the music and turn the lyrics over to Alan Jay Lerner. "No one's going to let you write this score alone," he said.  Then Cy, who was a friend, came out of the elevator, came to my place and listened to the songs.  He told me they were fine.  "If I worked on them I would just rip the spine out of them," he said, telling me I should persevere on my own."Just write bigger endings." I  think I have. And a lot of bigger beginnings and middles, too.
      There are a few other songwriters I will not mention-- they were not colorful enough to make good stories aside from their insensitivity, and I am entering a period of nothing but Love Love Love.  I have just had a farewell breakfast with beautiful and adorable Amber, a young actress who was sustaining herself as the bartender at the Mosaic when I stayed there, with whom I became good friends.  Amber's mother's heart just stopped forever a few months ago, and the same thing happened to Amber in the midst of a soccer game.  The players kept her alive for seven minutes till the firemen got there and kept her going in the truck till she got to the hospital,where she was given emergency surgery and a defibrillator.  She just had to go through another procedure where it had to be upgraded because it was set for older people, and Amber is so young. She is as glowing a presence as I have ever met, and told me how the fireman who ministered to her in the truck told her after a luncheon in their honor after her  recovery how she lay there, gone gone gone, no sign of life.  Then suddenly, after the second shot of adrenalin, she sprang to, opened her eyes, sat bolt upright, and started punching out, crying "No, no, no." He thought she was literally fighting for her life, but she thinks the truth is she was fighting not to come back, because whatever it was she found there, she was okay or maybe even happy staying with.
      Well, I guess we will all find out.  Unless it was true, what Peter Sellers told Cary Grant, my favorite name drop, when Sellers came back from his first pass at dying, that there was "Nothing."  Maybe there was just nothing for Peter Sellers.  There had to be something for Cary Grant, or there wouldn't have been a Cary Grant.
     I remember when I published "How to Survive in Suburbia When Your Heart's in the Himalayas," one of the meditations was "What Hath Cary Granted?" He said to me, my dazzling and generous friend, "Why am I in this book?  It could last a hundred years, and in fifteen years no one will even know who I am."  And I said to him "People will know who you are forever."  But alas, as the most affected of publishers used to write in their rejection letters, he was right.
     Still. alas, even publishing didn't last the way we thought it would, and books as we knew them, along with people you thought were immortal, are passing from the scene, like Republicans with conscience, and politicians who love their country better than their jobs. But maybe as long as there are people who sing, there will be musical theatre.  And maybe I'll get to see you all, Opening Night of Sylvia WHO? Wouldn't that be a great story?

Thursday, October 17, 2013


I am sorry to have missed the BBC movie of Burton and Taylor last night, but I did not miss the real-life event.  Although the review in the New York Times quotes her never reading material until she was playing the role, she did read a novel of mine, and we became friends, sort of.  I received an actual telegram from her in the days when people still sent them--it was the year THE MOTHERLAND was published by Simon & Shuster, "the only book we are publishing this Spring as far as I am concerned," Michael Korda had written me, forgetting, I guess, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN.  Elizabeth, whom I had never met, was congratulating me on my "wonderful novel," and clearly wanted to play the part of the heroine, Evelyn, inspired by my mom, who had told me "I didn't like children even when I was one of them." Thrilled that she wanted to play the part, I told my then close friend Sue Mengers, who responded, with her standard cruel on wry, "Tell her to get the napkin off her lap."
     Elizabeth was then clearly past it, though not in the popular imagination, and certainly not in mine.  So we became friends. She was "dating" Henry Wynberg, living with him in the house of Tom Tryon in the Hollywood Hills, where the wallpaper in the bedroom, where she spent most of her time, being in one of her semi-invalided phases, was a metallic foil, so reflected her everywhere she looked.  She was lying in bed watching one of her old movies on TV in-between the metal reflections of her, the first time I went to visit her, and to complete the picture, Richard Burton was on the phone.  He was dating Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, and needed money, and Elizabeth was going to give it to him.
      At the same period of her personal history, a few of her long- time friends were in attendance, including Max Lerner, the very kind and markedly Left columnist for The New York Post, who was clearly and Hebraically in love with her, worrying over the pulleys on her bed that were weighing on her spine, a remedy her current trendy doctor had prescribed for her.  "He had the nerve to imply he had an affair with me," she bristled, but still invited him to a picnic lunch on the terrace for a few close friends, one of whom I was hopeful of becoming. I loved her enough already that I sorrowed over the extra slather of mayonnaise-- mayonnaise?!!-- she lavished on her hot dog, as she was in one of her weight-gaining phases.  I remember a discussion of Village of the Damned, where someone asked her if she had seen the movie, and she said "No, but I read the book."  So much for tales of her not reading.
      We became friendish enough that she confided to me her visions-- one of which was waking bolt upright in the middle of the night to announce that Gary Cooper was dead, which caused another mutual acquaintance to note how wasted were her psychic powers since they revealed nothing that would help anyone to better their lives.  But I cherished the friendship-- I had always been in love with movie stars-- and there was no one Bigger in the cosmic awe sense, than Elizabeth.
     At the time I myself was still a bit of a hit, so when she gave a party, I was one of the first ones invited and there, to be waiting the hour and a half for her late arrival.  My friend, who had once been my agent, and was now a fabled bad but prolific and successful producer, Elliott Kastner, murmured to me at one point that "the only two above-the-title names here are you and Liza Minnelli."  Liza, whom I knew only slightly, had arrived and made a bee-line for me, "Oh, thank God," she said, as though I were her best friend.  "Will you come to Guaymas to visit me?  I'm making this movie called LUCKY LADY with Burt Reynolds and Gene Hackman and I don't know either of them." I was at the time just embarked on writing a murder mystery about a movie company on location.  "How will I learn about a movie company on location?"I'd asked Don, my husband that morning.  Always the quickest to help me, he had gone to the library and come back with the magazine story "Burt and Sarah and that Dirty Little Death in the Desert,"about the mysterious death of Sarah Miles' flunky press agent, while she was making a movie with Burt.  He had died with a "star-shaped wound," and it was murmured that Burt was the star.  So the invitation seemed like the answer to a dark prayer, and I was soon to go to Mexico and write what was to become my next adventure.  But that is another story.  In fact, another, not very successful novel.
     But as for Elizabeth, we remained... how can I put this?  What is the best synonym for close, that isn't close really?  I have checked Rodale's Synonym Finder, and the best I can find is "articulate," which sort of says it.  I saw her once a few years later in the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel.  She was with a friend who had been my doctor in New York, Lou Scarrone, who was, to put it kindly, vague, and generous with medication.  He had married, for a short time, a classmate of mine from Bryn Mawr, Peggy Hitchcock, the heiress who funded Timothy Leary.  "Oh, I'm just sort of hedge-hopping," Elizabeth muttered, her violet eyes unfocussed.
    The next time I saw her she was heavy again, and had married a Washington pol. That didn't last very long.
    Some years later, I was in Mexico, where I had once stayed at the Garza Blanca, the fabled hotel where she and Burton had had one of their trysts, which must have been just that-- completely and really.  I climbed the hill to their cottage: it was overgrown and dark, no sign of life or movement, as by then neither of them had either. 
    But she remains, even dead, where remains are really remains, one of the last great movie stars.  I look at who's out there now and wonder how they can be considered stars at all.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

So this is the strangely beautiful tree outside my front door.
I don’t know the name of it. The flowers have a certain pathos, a sense of having given up. But the fact that they are still alive infuses them with spirit, so I see them as the trumpets of something better to come, even though they are upside down.
Myself, I am about the same. This has been a particularly confusing period of my life, which has never been without confusion. My greatest dream appeared about to come true-- the musical I have been working on as long as some of you have been alive-- seemed to be actualizing. But then something strange occurred, fortunately in time to catch my notice, so I was able to intercede, and sidestep possible disaster. Interestingly, now that it might not happen, I am much more peaceful.
I wish I could stay in California, with this view from my window, and hang out with the trumpets upside down. But there are things I must do in New York, where I am so far from peaceful. Where no one makes eye contact anymore, they are all so busy being on their way to something, or their gaze is fixed on their cellphone. If only Life offered us a world where we didn’t have to go to the dentist.

Sunday, September 22, 2013



So I chanced into Central Park today-- a spectacular day, not hot, comfortable, the sky slightly clouded but that made the blue of it look bluer, just the right amount of people it seemed, enjoying the weather and the setting.  To my quiet surprise, there was something unusual going on in the section just below the walkway where the rink for ice-skating is in winter,-- what looked like a new small pond.  Lines of people waiting to go down to see whatever it was.  I asked, and it was Japanese Buddhists handing out paper lanterns filled with written prayers for peace, to float on the ad hoc pond at twilight.  So I joined the line, curious as always, interested as sometimes. Stayed on the line with a young woman from Melbourne, where my daughter-in-law comes from-- she is in this country working with little children, always a spirit enricher as well as a fine way to earn some money in a strange land.
  When I got down to the launch, which it was, we wrote our prayers on the paper and went to float our lanterns.  A little girl, the one shown here, floated my paper, now set into a block of wood, also provided by the Buddhists, onto the water.  An impressive display, with a band-- there were several on the stands built up around the edges, waiting their turn, playing lively music.  Interesting that the Peace-Prayers came from a far away land, especially considering that those holding our country in bondage and coming perilously close to sinking it, are those who were elected to hold it together. I wonder how John Boehner sleeps at night, and assume it is mostly by passing out.
    Then I walked down by the actual lake, my usual path when I am in New York and go to quiet my soul, and, coming up the stairs, which I don't do with the same alacrity I did in my recent (it seemed) youth, I came across a young couple getting married, obviously with the blessings of God, if He/She exists, as it was, as noted, a spectacular day, and they didn't have to rent a small party room at the Plaza, as we had done, a lifetime ago.
    Then I went to meet Larry Ham, the gentle, gifted musician who is organizing, taking down, and sifting all the music for Sylvia WHO? which starts going into the works tomorrow, En Sha-Allah, which I think is the Muslim prayer, why not if the world is to continue? and I don't know the Hebrew for "It Should Only Happen."  From the apartment where we are working, and where, if all goes well, we will have the reading on the 30th, I could see the twin towers as they resounded in my very young days, the double steeples of the San Remo on Central Park West, the place where Herman Wouk had Marjorie Morningstar coming from.  And I could not help but think the view was kind of an add-up of my life's ambitions, at least the way they used to be.  Marjorie was sort of who I was, or thought I wanted to be, in various almost incarnations-- the person I might have been had my mother not married Puggy, putting me on the East Side at least for vacations, the movie they were making from the novel at Warner Brothers, when Tony Perkins thought I should be an actress and so got Tab Hunter to get me a screen test.  But instead I started telling the producer I think he was, or maybe the director, how I thought they ought to do the screenplay, and he said "I don't understand… are you a writer?"
   Well, i was, and I am, although at the time I thought I wanted to be anything that Tony wanted me to be, though I didn't understand that would have been a boy,
   So my whole life was passing before my eyes and I'm not even drowning.  At least I hope I'm not.  What I am at the moment is still a bit disoriented, as besides the travel which is not so much broadening at this time of my life but tiring, I had to stay in a hotel and then in another apartment at the Hampshire House that was not my own, but seemed infinitely more spacious as the walls aren't filled with the posters and pictures and memories of a lifetime, including a poster of my play set in ancient Athens performed at Bryn Mawr called The Women Upstairs, which was what the wives were doing during Plato's Symposium-- like why wouldn't everyone relate to that?-- and a huge wooden bowl that workers wore on their heads in the rice fields of Bali  My place feels crowded with memory and I am trying hard to live in the present.
    It was good to go outside, on a beautiful day, which, like everything else, you have to struggle not to be attached to. It can't possibly stay like this. Still, you never know: Maybe everything will fall happily into place, the skies will stay clear, people will connect with their better natures and wish each other well, there will be peace on earth, and Republicans will remember that they are Americans,

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


My Labor Day became a true celebration, commemorating the enormous exhale, the breath long held, when you know you have finished something, and finished it the best you could.  The non-festivities were marked by a visit from Gabriel Ferrer, the son of Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer, and, until recently the minister for All Saints, the church I have been dropping in on-- I can't consider myself a true Attender-- since moving back here, sort of, my suitcase being ready for re-packing for the return to New York.  Gabri, whom I had not met before, came by so I could say Hello and play him the wonderful recordings Rosie made for me of many of the songs from Sylvia WHO?  There is honey in her voice, and some butter, so it was a rich event.  The recordings are private-- she did them in a studio with no enhancement, so it would likely not be fair to her standard to release them--but it was very like she was in the room with us, which it would not surprise me to find out she really was.
    It was a lovely experience.  He was just returning from a trip to Greece and the mysterious islands of Scotland where many don't know there are mysterious islands, and is an impressive man, big, with more than a trace of his father in his physical presence and his voice, -- and it is a joyful thing to be able to give someone the unexpected gift of a vanished parent's gifts.  She was a glorious human being, and I love her and will always be grateful for her generosity.  He said that because she had such a rough time in her middle years, and saw who was there to help her, she resolved always to give back, and she certainly did.
     As you may remember, and I have told and re-told, I was in a particularly low funk with my efforts to bring Sylvia to the light heavily thwarted, when, just before Christmas, Don picked me up from my Quaker Meeting in Westwood, and I,-- miffed because no place we went was playing Christmas Carols-- "Where are we living?" I asked him,--  told him to pull in to Food Giant, where, at long long last, they were playing Carols.  I went in and heard someone singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," I turned a corner, and there on the other side of the aisle, pushing her cart and singing, was Rosie.  I introduced myself to her, said "I want to talk to you about something."  "Good," she said. "I think God sent me in here," I said. She said "I believe in that."  A few days later she came to my house; I played her some of the songs.  She laughed and cried and said all the right things: "People are waiting for this," she said, little knowing they still would be all these years later.
     But now the wait could very likely be almost over.   I would bite my tongue and spit three times for fear I was jinxing myself, except that last night on the news I saw that Diane Nyars, a 64-year-old woman, had finally, after decades of trying, made the swim from Cuba, without a shark cage; red-faced and swollen, with jellyfish stings around her lips, she said the secret was "Never Giving Up."  Well,  neither have I.  And now with the support of a very brilliant friend who, happily, believes in me, I can actually see where it might be coming together. Spit spit spit.
   So I am off for New York next week, free at last, free at last: Lord God Almighty I am free at last.  This is, I believe, the first time in my adult life when I know for sure I have done exactly what I should have, throwing off the specters of all who do not wish me well, and though perhaps not having for all to see the white aura perceived by Dorothy, the psychic I met in the produce section of Pavillions-- after all, this IS Beverly Hills, -- I know I have completed some important steps.  The musical is the best it can be at this point, ready for the reading we are going to do the end of the month, and I, having cast off the shackles of imagined relationships that weren't really, am the best I can be, having swum these shark-infested waters without a cage, as well.
     As for Dorothy, she told me she would bring her crystals and cleanse my shakers, the ones that are somewhat blocked by those who, as writ above, "do not wish me well."  She drove me home in her white Mercedes(it IS California, after all,) and said I could call her anytime if I needed to go anywhere-- as you may remember, I don't have a car, and am enjoying having to walk everywhere while I still can. I asked her how much the reading would cost me, and she said $300.  Well, as Shirley MacLaine would be quick to tell you, that is a fair price for someone to cleanse your shakers.  So I said "Why not?"
    I have not heard from her since. I have left a message, and e-mailed her case you want your shakers attended to.)  So I must regard the appearance of my aura in a grocery store just another of those SouthernCal miracles.  And as she told me I am a Messenger, I shall take her unofficial mystical perception this side of the papayas, as a gift from the Gods.
      Maybe the same ones that Gabri connected with off Scotland, or maybe the ones Thoreau found in Walden.  Though if he really heard from them they might have told him not to be so wordy.
   Me either.  Love to you all.  Happy After-Labor Day.

Friday, August 30, 2013


For some reason I find myself thinking of Diana Rigg, with whom I enjoyed a brief Almost Friendship when I was doing my graduate work or whatever it was at Oxford one thinking summer.  Can't remember who invited me to the evening where I met her, but we got on famously, as they say, though she was infinitely more famous than I.  I told her I was going to Oxford, and she said "STOP IT!"  I think she said it twice in that husky, veiled voice of hers.  "STOP IT!" she said again, and I was immediately ashamed that I was doing anything as stupid as trying to be an Academic.
    She invited me to come visit her home in London,-- she was married to Sir Archie Somebody, or Lord Archie Something, and as she was still in her beautiful, arrogant shell, playing badminton with him in their back yard, the marriage appeared very happy, though he was later to leave her for somebody a little famous-- I can't remember who-- and not nearly as talented.  I suppose what triggered the memory was the Stargazer Lilies I mounted on either side of my couch, in my bought at Goodwill slender glass vases.  When I went to Diana's house-- I imagine I should refer to her as the Lady Diana she was at the time-- I brought her Stargazer lilies.  As she opened the door for me she burst into deep-throated laughter-- the pods or whatever they are that stick out of them had brushed my face very impressively, and left a dark brown trail.  So she showed me to her little guest bath and I washed my face and had, I'm not clear on it, but I imagine, a very pleasant evening.  Civilized, no doubt.
    I had at the time a passionate agenda, of course, having recently finished THE WOMEN UPSTAIRS, my play about what the wives were doing during Plato's Symposium, and probably imagined, dreamed, fantasied, that she could play the lead, Socrates' wife Xantippe.  It all sounds so improbably high-minded now.  But remember, I was studying at Oxford.
    Anyway, nothing ever came of it.  I must have gone back to San Francisco where I was living at the time, because she came through in a play-- one of those two people things with reading letters-- and I went to see her. And she said "I'm surprised you're still speaking to me."  So I suppose she had never even read it.  But I wasn't angry or even, I don't think, disappointed, though she would have been wonderful, and the play might have just been a thinking woman's triumph.  The moments that never happened-- those are the really big ones when you get to this turn in the road.  But I still feel great affection and admiration for her and hope she is not having a hard time of it, Lord Archie having been a cad and all of us, no matter how glamorous(not me, She) growing older.
    This looking back wistfully, and with a soupcon (there should be a tail on that c) of regret is exacerbated by my reading SILK LADY, my old novel that Warner Books thought would be a great bestseller but it was their first foray into hard covers and they hadn't gotten their hard cover chops yet, so they misfired on a number of levels, and the book didn't happen.  Besides that I had forgotten it almost completely-- i'm not sure, really, exactly how it turns out, I am driven to read it because the walls here are paper-thin, my neighbors apparently have a great deal of time in which to complain, so I can no longer watch TV, under threat of Martial Law.  As I had sent to New York for The Pretenders, imagining that with the success of I'LL EAT YOU LAST, the Bette Midler/Sue Mengers one woman show produced by Graydon Carter with great success, the early adventures of Sue Mengers, who was, until the publication of The Pretenders, my best friend, would be of great interest to the entertainment world and make for a fabulous mini-series.  Sue was, of course, Louise Felder, my heroine, depicted I think pretty accurately and with great affection, but Sue didn't intend for me to be a hit without her having engineered it, so didn't speak to me when it became one.
     Many years later, though, after Don died, she called me to praise and wonder over SILK LADY, in which there appeared the middle-aged Louise, who was Sue, and said "How did you know that about me?" I told her I'd always loved her, which was true, and so imagined how she had changed, grown, crystallized, hardened, whatever, and apparently got it right.  I read this book now with Sue's eyes, wishing I could talk to her, which my adorable neighbor, Katy the Total Innocent, says I can.  At any rate, I remember how the conversation ended, with Sue saying about Don: "And most of all, I remember how much he loved you," then slamming down the phone, leaving me with all my feelings hanging out.  She did so love to be in control.  But I still miss her.  Can't wait to find out how SILK LADY ends, but don't imagine it's happy. Also it has too much sex, which I used to do.  In novels, anyway.
    I don't mean to be making such a foray into my past, but had to put aside WALDEN, which I was reading for the second time, or trying to-- Soooooo wordy, Thoreau must have had nothing but time-- and the only other books I have here are Lucky Me, Sachi, Shirley MacLaine's daughter's heartbroken memoir, not very well written, Tab Hunter's memoir, in which i appear briefly for my own early heartbreak(Tony Perkins) and Edna O'Brien's memoir.  She was the writer I most wanted to be when I was young, August is a Wicked Month having struck me between the eyes and to the core, but this memoir, again, being wordy and a wee too Bog Irish to touch me heart.
    Toby Rafelson took a really good picture of me sitting in front of my keyboard, which I have not yet learned to really play and am a bit afraid of because of the neighbors, but when I saw the picture I thought there should really be a book that could be on the back cover of-- and speculated about writing the next act of The Motherland, what's happened to my family since the end of that novel.  But the spiritualist I met in Pavilions, in between the tomatoes and the prosciutto-- it is LA, after all,-- said I shouldn't write that as it is too dark and would bring me down and my aura is pure white and should stay so so I can make the world a better place.  It is LA, after all.  She was going to come and cleanse my shakra with her crystals, but has since disappeared.  I hope to go to a better place.
   Heidi, my beloved friend, child of my beloved friends, said to make sure I have all my credit cards.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


So having taken the GodlyPlay Training all weekend, -- a way of teaching little kids the Bible, which, you will not be surprised to know I have NEVER read, except in little clumps---I fell into a spiritual tub of butter, as it were, hanging out for the weekend at All Saints church with some truly lovely people-- a few ministers, a number of caring women who wanted to be of service, and a darling young woman who, when I told her I had written a book called THE DAUGHTER OF GOD, where the child of God  (I do not say "Christ") comes back as a woman, held her head in horror and said: "Oh, no! A woman is going to be crucified!"  I promised her it does not come to that-- the book is cheerful and in parts, actually funny, uplifting, and, as I found out from the woman who works out in the Alumnae Office at Bryn Mawr, whose husband is a black Methodist minister-- that he found it "Biblically sound."  That almost put me away, as, having confessed to you I never read it, I am thrilled and somewhat baffled that I actually seemed to know what I'm talking about.
    I have only a little bit of a problem with Christ, as my Grandma, still the most wonderful woman I ever had the good fortune to be connected with, if you don't count my school principals and presidents of Bryn Mawr, all of whom were Great Mother Figures for me, both nurturing and guiding, Grandma, a Hungarian Jew whose father was the Wise Man of Szatmar, according to Family Myth, said "Christ was a Nice Man.. a Good Magician."  So I have always held him in a loving light, and resisted only making him The One, saving that for God, Him/Her Self.  I do believe God is the great Redeemer, except in the world we live in, you have to redeem Yourself.
    That is not easy in Beverly Hills, this Rest Stop for the traveling Spirit.  But with the help of a few Friends I have here, none of them Quakers which I have been at various landmarks of my journey, am taken for grocery shopping, since  I am without a car, a deliberate choice, as I understand what a test the traffic would be for my recently acquired Calm.  But I cannot make my way to a Quaker Meeting.  So I have had to subscribe to the theory that the Kingdom of Heaven is Within.
    Nor am I in easy reach of Jack, my longtime Jewru, as Don called him, a born Jew who said that being that where he lived was like... I don't remember the exact wordage, but it was something like being in a motel in the middle of a desert, which is what Arizona is and was to me the little time I spent in Tucson, one hideous summer while my father was Mayor there... and I was hoping to go to a Daylong retreat with Jack September 4th except it would abrogate my being able to go to a little theatrical presentation here, and getting there and back would be more than difficult, close to impossible, so it's not Meant to Be.  But I still have one good and loved Friend who's a Quaker, now a High Official-- I am noticing what I capitalize, and it's interesting-- and we shall re-connect when I go back to New York.  Where I can of course walk everywhere and use public transportation, so we shall see what unfolds.
    But mostly I need to celebrate being alive, because that is the great gift that each of us is given, and how we unwrap it is our Journey.
    Ah, but the Pulots.  (I capitalize it because my computer, being driven, keeps correcting it and making it 'plots.')  I was worried that I hadn't put in enough gelatin, so added another two packets, and now have pulot Jello.  Interesting, a reddish brown color and not bad to the taste, though I would rather have had the jam.
    But then the choices we make in this life dictate what the dish will turn out to be.  So I would feel very Blessed, yes, I must capitalize that, if I got my Just Desserts.  Sylvia Who? or Who is Sylvia? Which do you prefer?  And will you all come to the Opening Night, if there is one?  Please, God.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Not a complaint, just an assessment, the latest batch of pluots, mispelled in my last Report, as pointed out by the smart and observant Toby Rafelson, has also failed to set after a busy night of batching.  But I am hopeful, and slightly prayerful, my prayers for Amber having been answered(she's out of the hospital, where, my dear Dr. Agre had said to me when I was in: "Let's get you out of here before you catch something,") that if I give it a shot heavenward, when I come back, the pluot jam, probably the last of the season, will have gelled.
      When I speak of coming back, it will be from All Saints church in Beverly hills, where I go today for my training in teaching children 'Godly Play.'  As friends know, I love little children, and there has been a great absence of them in my life of late for reasons I will not go into right now but might write a novel about, having completed(I think) my musical, prior to going back to New York to infuse it with (let us pray) Life.  I am not complete without a project to work on, so am chewing on writing the book I have long avoided, or, at least, avoided since THE MOTHERLAND, my Family saga that came out at exactly the wrong time(Watergate, and Woodward and Bernstein's ALL THE PRESIDENT's MEN was on the same list, so guess which started to sell?)  But having been through a few familial agonies since which I said I wouldn't write about, I am thinking thinking thinking, and maybe maybe maybe.  Philip Roth said "Nothing bad can ever happen to a writer," and I said "That's because he never had children."  But maybe the time has come to deal with my own, and others' pain, in Styronesque fashion, albeit missing the Deep South, and fair-haired women.  I share all this because some of you have expressed interest in the creative process, as am I.  So maybe the unfoldment, a Biblical word or maybe it was in the Spiritual Diary of Yogananda I read every morning, of these unexpected agonies will be of resonance to others, and if not, I will have tried, as with the pluots. I just have to find the creative equivalent of pectin to make it all jell.
    I found my way to All Saints because of beautiful Heidi, the daughter of my best friend at Bryn Mawr, Muggy-- they did have those kinds of names-- the Prettiest Girl in the Class.  I have known and loved Heidi since infancy, since she howled with agony at Don's disappearing as he dove into her parents' pool, probably thinking he was gone, which of course he actually was to be a while later, and for a long time now.  But she grew straight and strong and smart and gifted, becoming an actress of considerable talents I was fortunate to observe both professionally on TV and in my own play, The Women Upstairs, about what the ladies were doing during Plato's Symposium, not exactly light fare but they did it in Beverly Hills when there was a theatre there on Canon, and she was wonderful, eventually setting career to the rear to forge a family of her own.
    But when I came back to LA, I went to her church of a Sunday, and she looked so transcendent and translucent lighting the candles on the altar that I was moved.  So on a recent Sunday, I went to church, sort of the Hippie service that comes later than the rigid one, this one with song(guitars) and art projections on the screen.  And they are having a training for those who want to work with children, so why not?
     That's where I go at 1.  So I must bring this to a speedy close, but not so speedy that the pluots of thought will not jell.  Or is spelled gel?
    I love you all, whoever you are-- I remember a movie with Kim Stanley, where a lonely little girl cried out into the night "Whoever you are, I love you." I feel the same way, I think, about God.  Like many I am not sure, and like almost everyone I know, I can be skeptical.  But there is no reason, knowing for CERTAIN as I do that there has to be something benign behind this whole design, as the astronauts saw when they stood on the moon-- I knew a few of them-- in spite of how messed up the world seems to be.  Even Einstein, (pretty bright, wouldn't you say?) had to concede there was something masterful and inexplicable.
     And as long as you don't allow the idea that it's all pointless, you have to give God a chance.  After all, She may have needs, too.

Monday, August 19, 2013


So my joyful stay in Beverly Hills grows close to an end.  I go back to New York September 10th, to, hopefully, set SYLVIA WHO? in motion.  I finished the last song (I think it is) last night, in the middle of the night, as the movies always depicted songwriters as doing, when there were movies that did not feature robots and violence, and there were actual songwriters, instead of rappers.  This has been the greatest adventure in a life that, looking back on, has provided a number of adventures, many of which involved travel, romance, the hope of romance, sorrow over loss, and a gradual understanding that that is what life is about, learning to deal with loss. Because you cannot have wonderful things happen-- love, success, the elation of True Spirit, without equal portions of agony and loss, and the only thing you can really count on having is Change.
     But there are also PULOTS.  Minor, but as sweet a discovery as it is unexpected.  One of the things that has kept me going in this not easy voyage Westward, coming back to this scene of my sort-of youth, has been the Farmer's Market in Century City, where I have gone every Thursday for flowers and fruit, two of the glories that California offers besides fine(usually) weather as the rest of the planet suffers.  And of course the illusion of peace as the rest of the world explodes.
   Still, it IS Beverly Hills, where if you are lucky enough to have neighbors, they may be friendly.  But if you come back after several years' absence, unless you arrive on a float of publicity and sales to media, it is a struggle to make contact, as one's humanity is not necessarily prized here.  This is a place where a smile and a song count a whole lot less than publicity and credits, and as it will be a while till my latest creative effort flowers, which I have every hope it will, and soon, few are those who care that I am here.  So I have been quite alone, my dogs having died and my children being (don't ask) less than a comfort, my darling husband having left the world a very long time ago, and my being (to my surprise) older.
    SO: ABOUT PULOTS.  They are a new fruit, a hybrid of plums and apricots, about neither of which I have ever felt passionate, or, even, a less heated word, interested. Still when you center yourself, or try to, on the things that keep you going in-between songs and rewrites and connecting with people who seem genuinely interested or kind, it is nourishing, in many senses of the word, to discover something fresh and sweet in Nature, which of course we rarely pay attention to.  So in-between a blossoming friendship with Roberto, who sells flowers on Thursdays in the mart at Century City, and my neighbor Katie, a breath of fresh air, being as close as I have come to a genuine and adorable ingenue outside of a script or a casting office, I have found pulots.  And as in all the loneliness landmarks of my life, graduate school at Stanford, where I cooked for my classmate, Bethie,  from Bryn Mawr's brother-in-law and his roommates, my baking for Aunt Tillie's Health Food store during the ordeal of my lawsuit, and my staving off isolation in San Francisco after Don's death, with jams made from fruits bought on the highway, all lined up atop the shelf in my kitchen, glittering in emerald glass jars, only one of which fell, mercifully, during the earthquake, I have turned to the comfort of my Inner Grandma,-- she was one of the great cooks ever-- and made jams. The best jam you have ever tasted I would say without hesitation, now that I have found pulots.  So send me your addresses and I will get you a jar.
     Not without suffering, though, this ancient but re-acquired way of showing love, which I believe cooking is, as I couldn't find the Sure-Jell needed to make the whole thing solidify, so had to wing it.  Last night I went to sleep with a sense of having failed, as the little jars, from The Container Store, (marked 'Fruchten,' in the curious way that the German language has of making delicious things sound unappetizing) still looked very liquid-y, so I was sure it hadn't worked.  But HOORAH! I woke this morning having put them in the fridge, and they're fine.
   And more important, I finished what feels like the one song that was missing from the show in the late hours of the night.  And beautiful Amber, the darling and sweet-spirited friend I made on first re-aligning my life with Los Angeles, an adorable and gifted young woman whose heart stopped in the middle of a soccer game last week, given CPR by her team-mates till the ambulance got there, is going to be all right, I fervently pray, which I have been moved to do with no trace of doubt or cynicism.   How clear it makes  the fragility of life-- how lucky we are to be alive, and, in the best case scenario, well.
    Taste everything.  Feel it go down.  Live every moment.  And swim if you can find a pool.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Today is the birthday of my stepfather, Saul Schwamm, affectionately know, by those(not an army) who celebrated him, as "Puggy", because of his underbite, which thrust his jaw forward  as though he was ready for an argument, as he often was.  Contentious, combative, original and brilliant, he came into my life as the blessing my parents were less than.
    My mother married him when I was in high school, and because of him, and his generosity, I was able to go to Bryn Mawr, where I had been accepted, when my father, by then, as I remember, the Mayor of Tucson, said the University of Arizona was a better school... doubtless because he wouldn't have to pay for it.  Daddy was all things to all men, if all men were Himself.
   When I scored my great success in Junior Show, having written most of the music and lyrics and played the comedy lead(causing George Segal, the one-day-to-be movie star, albeit briefly, to leap to the apron of the stage for the curtain call and kiss my hands, something that caused a near-swoon on my part at the time, since I had masochistic taste and was infatuated) and Freddy Sadoff, my friend at the Actor's Studio, then the center of theatre excitement, since it harbored the young, inspired, and still thin Marlon Brando, to tell me the theatre needed me, so I should quit college and come to New York. So I told Miss McBride, our wonderful president, who had congratulated my mother the night of the show, saying "This is the most exciting theatrical event since Katharine Hepburn was an undergraduate here," -- followed my mother's saying to me 'Who was that?' as Miss McBride went off into the darkness. "The president of the college," I said.  "Oh," said my mother.  "I thought it was the washerwoman."
    But after what Freddy said, I went to Miss McBride and told her "Shakespeare and Chaucer have given me all they can, and the theatre needs me, so I'm quitting Bryn Mawr."  Without missing a beat, Miss McBride said: "Well, Gwen... try to be back for exams."
   So I went home and told my mother I was quitting college.  "They told me this would happen in the Beauty Parlor!" she shrieked, and locked me in my room.
    I lay there quietly sobbing and reading Tennyson.  Later, Puggy came into my room.
   "It's all right," I said. "I was going to quit because I had no reason to stay.  But now I have a reason: you won't let me leave."
    "No, Gwennie," he said.  "That's not your reason... There's your reason."  He pointed to a painting on the wall.  "All Art will show it self in its time.  Don't rush the calendar."
    Well, I certainly haven't.  The whole span of my life lies between that caution, and the heartening almost-fact that my musical comedy, the center of my aspiration, seems at long long last to be coming to life.
    But then, meantime, I had a few more years of Puggy's kindness and wisdom, before my mother accused him of having an affair with his son's ex-fiancee, so he did, after which me and my mother divorced and he married Kathy... But that is another story, probably a sequel to The Motherland if people still cared about novels, which, sadly, I don't think they do anymore.
   I had a few more glowing moments with him-- there was the night a man landed on the moon, and Puggy, a Wall Street investment banker, waxed poetic and longing for the aspirations he once had.  "The time has long since passed," he said, "when I wondered if I was doing the right thing."  But by then he and his brother, Harvey, had long been "The Bad Boys of Wall Street," having taken an ad in the New York Times the day Roosevelt closed the banks, saying "Business will be conducted as usual in the offices of Schwamm and Co.," so all trading that day had to be done through their company, started when they were blackballed for being Jews.  They made what would have been today a Gatesian/Jobsian fortune in that one day, and were never considered gentlemen again.
   But he had a soul full of love for art-- he had bought Pollock's BLue Unconcious- and the 8-room apartment on Park Avenue that Mom talked herself out of(screamed, actually) was full of wonderful paintings, including the one he pointed to with his aviso to me.  And when he read THE MOTHERLAND, about which Liz Smith said to my mother, "I know it's fiction but Gwen could;t have written it without you for inspiration, to which my mother responded "It made me regret not having committed infanticide," Puggy said, of his fictional depiction: "I don't know why I got off so easy."
    I do.  He was a wonderful man.  Happy Birthday, Puggy.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Party Uncrashed

My mother was a party crasher.   An amazingly animated beauty, with a dazzling smile and a manner that made people feel welcome, towards the end of her life, as a child of the Great Depression, she panicked and blundered her way out of a very successful marriage, (if you didn't mind screaming and the police coming,) and made a number of economically foolish moves, selling a gorgeous 5 room penthouse apartment in the East 60s to the English director Michael Winner for $60,000, and all of her jewels and china and silver, a vast and glorious collection, for a pittance to an auction gallery-- I think it was Parke Bernet. Ending up in a studio at the Hampshire House, with hardly enough closet space for what had been her once splendid wardrobe, most of her suitors being laid to rest, she began crashing parties, looking for love and free hors oeuvres.  When New York honored its two hundred most important citizens, Mom was among them.
    Having never seen her in action, but already inspired into making her the heroine of my blossoming musical, SYLVIA, WHO? I asked if I could go with her and see her in action on one of those occasions.  She went directly up to the head of security and without turning a hair, asked where the VIP section was, and charmed/dazzled/overwhelmed him into all but escorting her into the inner room, where we were seated with Henry and Nancy Kissinger, Claire Booth Luce and Roy Cohn, and the Duke and Duchess of Bedford.
    "My friends can't believe I'm content to live so quietly," Nancy Kissinger said.
    Without missing a beat, my mother said: "My friends feel the same way about me."
    Having been gifted with a remnant of her smile, and a small degree of her fearlessness, I have traveled the world comparatively legitimately, free-lancing as a travel and food writer(who knew? but I did know how to taste, and had had a wondrous adventure on her final outing with Julia Child) for the Wall Street Journal Europe, under the aegis of my great editor Jim Ruane. Vicky King, the brilliant publicist for some of the world's great hotels, called me in Paris, where I had moved for a while, and said "The Wall Street Journal Europe is starting a travel page, and you'd be good at that."
   "I have a great idea for a piece," I said to to Jim on the phone.'Swimming through Europe,' all the hotels with great pools."  "I like it," he said. "Send me a couple of graphs."
   "What is that?" I asked.
   "Paragraphs," he answered.
   And so it began, and continued for a number of years and a lot of exciting places, that welcomed me, expecting, as it was the Wall Street Journal, a Republican in a suit.  So when I showed up the sense of relief was palpable.  I made a lot of great friends, writing what I have to say objectively were pretty lively pieces, in-between a number of novels, and trying to recover from the loss of a wonderful husband, as my children, now grown, went their own way-- to put it mildly.
     Still all good things must come to an end, and when Jim moved on, so did I.  But my travel adventures continued, and fortunately life did, too, bringing us up to today, where, having moved back to Beverly Hills to work on the re-finishing of SYLVIA WHO? I am ensconced in a little apartment behind the Peninsula Hotel, my new favorite place in the world of hotels.
    As gracious as they are top of the line, everyone there has made me feel most welcome.  Still, the other night, when they celebrated being able to have celebrations, having just gotten their license to party on the rooftop terrace, stringing the pool with chandeliers (Can you believe it?) and about to launch a major fete, as I had not been officially invited, I went home. I could hear my mother's ghost admonishing me, telling me to go slip into something glamourous and slip back in.  But I told her as I had not been asked, it would not be seemly, a word I learned the meaning of at Bryn Mawr.
    "How was it?" I asked them the next day.  "Great," they said.  "But we were hoping for about 100 people and only about 60 came."
   WHAT?!!  They were disappointed?  "I would have come," I said.  "But I hadn't been invited."
   "You should have just come," they said.
   So there it is: the great lesson of Life.  The only thing you should regret is what you didn't do.  I am writing a song to that effect for my musical.  I hope you will all come to the opening if/when it happens, whether or not you have to crash.

Friday, August 02, 2013


Found this old piece  today on my computer, as I searched for a novel I wrote many years ago when I was still considered a "hot" novelist, looking for a new agent, and enjoyed a brief friendship with Mary Higgins Clark, who could not have been "hotter," making as she did a consistent and continuing fortune.  "What are your books about?" she asked me, over dinner on Sixth Avenue, at a restaurant I loved that isn't there anymore, as many things aren't, along with what and who I loved,
    "They're all different," I said.
    "Oh, that's a mistake," she said, gently,without missing a beat, having sold a jillion books that were all pretty much the same, a brilliantly successful formula, reassuring to her army of fans.  Then she gave me the name of her agent, Gene Winick, at Macintosh & Otis.
I called him, and because I was still in some kind of happening state, or, more probably, because Mary had sent me, he took me on.  Then he submitted the book to fifteen publishers at once, without a personal approach to any of them.
   It was a novel written from the point of a view of a gay man(not dared at the time) who was probably mad from the beginning but was to go completely insane by the end of it, killing the woman he was living with, who was very like the newly widowed me. He was very like my great first love, Tony Perkins, at least the closeted, tormented part of him, and the book was called SCHERZO.  I hope I have it somewhere, from the days when you still typed and copied on paper.  Because today, too many years late to actually inform me so I might have been careful, I read the piece in Vanity Fair about Harper Lee, and among the dolts and unthinkers she worked with were Gene Winick.  And I suddenly remembered the dead look in his eyes, and the fact that I really hadn't been sure that he even read it.  Only one publisher responded, a naughty woman of the time, whose name I can't remember, but she was a troublemaker and made some for herself. I may remember it later, which I do most of the time now, as facts escape me, even while none of the feelings do.
     And then I remembered clearly how I saw Winick shortly after that, and realized he didn't even really remember who I was.  Which is different from not being able to recall a name,  And then I knew he hadn't even really read my book, and just sent it as to a cattle auction.  Oh, well.
     Here's what I found in my Documents file.
     So it is Sabado de Gloria, as they celebrate it in Mexico where I was one Easter season, when Liza Minnelli was only a little messed up, and I was in Guaymas while she was making Lucky Lady. My children were little and still beautiful and touching, and Don was very much alive, standing up for me, which few have done since. But then, I have learned to stand up for myself, supported by a few wonderful and smart friends and the occasional clearheaded lawyer.
I have returned to Los Angeles to check in with those, as well as the doctors I trust who keep me alive, so far, and to maybe find someplace to live where I will not lose my bearings because I am so cold. This has been the hardest winter of my life, isolated in the midst of a crowded, busy New York City, and a building full of people who mostly avert their eyes, even in the elevator, as though they are fearful you will ask them for something. Like compassion, or, even worse, money.
It is a puzzle, New York, still the capital of the Driven, people busily on their way to Somewhere or Something, not many of them noting where they are. I am no less guilty, having lost my Jack-center, having forgotten how to be peaceful, except by the Boathouse in Central Park, where I can look at the lake and almost remember what it was to rejoice in being still. That has been the setting for my making a few friends, most of them from other countries, where people still dream that New York is the place, and maybe envy me the fact that I live there. Or did.
I am looking for a place to live here so I can do what work I am meant to do, all the while hoping that my fantasy, the reason I stayed in New York, will materialize. And that is, of course, my musical, which I have been working on since before you were born. But I have an advocate, and that encourages me not to think it is a complete dream, so we will see.
There is no point, I don’t think, in giving up a dream, even if, or especially when it seems elusive. When we lose the ability to chase after things, if only in our minds, then the gears of imagination stiffen along with everything else. So I remember how it was that Sabado di Gloria, when the whole world, or at least the exotic part of it, lay before us, and nobody could imagine or conjure or be warned about growing old. There we stood, under the tree, my handsome, strong, tall husband, my darling children, and the member of a local tribe we connected with, who was having his own, mysterious Easter celebration. Those were the days, remember, when I believed in Everything. So I considered it a personal gift from the Powers that Be, (unless they Aren’t) to have
connected with this obviously illuminated local, a Yaqui Indian, which was the tribe that Castaneda, the celebrated mystical writer of the 60s, had connected with, and learned from (unless he was exaggerating, or, Heavens Forefend, making it all up.)
Nothing would ever go wrong again, I was sure, having recently been rescued by my hero, and not having yet encountered a great personal loss, if you didn’t count Roosevelt in the 4th grade. So there we stood, connecting on a super-sensitive and mysterious level. And when it was ending, and the Yaqui was returning to his Yaqui life, he said he would meet us again.
“Where?” I asked.
“Under the tree,” said the Yaqui.
“Under the tree,” echoed Don, smiling, indulgent as always of my

lunatic, mystical bent.
So when the time came, not all that long afterward, when my young

and tall and strong husband died, that’s where we put him.
Ah, but this is the day before the Rising Up. And we have nothing to

fear but fear itself and the little dumb lunatic in Korea. The sun struggles to come out, as Gays don’t have to anymore.
So let us rejoice in the fact that we are alive, at least some of us. A friend told me +Candace Bergen, a very smart woman, said “Growing old is a privilege.” I would have to applaud her.
At least my hands are still in fine shape. And I have made the print larger, in case, you, like me, find it more comfortable. 

    When I went to that church last Sunday, one of the thoughts projected on the screen was "Have the right regrets."
    I don't think there's any point in having any.  The only regrets we maybe should have, since there's no way of changing the past, is to regret the things you didn't even try to do.